Roasted Brunch Potatoes

Yesterday I promised to share with you my recipe for Roasted Brunch Potatoes. Of course, these potatoes are perfectly good for any meal: breakfast, lunch or dinner. In fact, they can be served hot, at room temperature of even cold!

Ingredients for 4-6 servings
8 Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, cut into bite-size pieces (no need to peel!)
1 green pepper, cut into 3rds, seeds removed and then each piece cut into 3rds again
1 red pepper, cut into 3rds, seeds removed and then each piece cut into 3rds again
1 large red onion, peeled, cut into large chunks
olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 450
2. Combine all vegetables in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt, mix
3. Roast the vegetables for about 55 minutes, turning them occasionally
4. Serve with a poached egg on top, or just on their own, or with ketchup, or with chicken: you get the idea!

Note: ideally, you want to roast the vegetables in one layer, but my Pyrex dish wasn't large enough. It still worked!

The red onions become caramelized and sweet after the roasting process, as do the peppers. Make sure your potatoes are perfectly cooked through and have a golden brown crust on the outside.

You can make this dish with an addition of cubed zucchini, red pepper flakes and lemon juice. Hope you will give this a try and love it as much as I did.


Brunch Time!

Friday was my friend Radha's birthday, and in lieu of a gift, I offered to make her a Saturday brunch. She was happy to accept! I asked our other friend, Jenn, to be my co-pilot :)

I wanted the brunch to be casual, fun and include good but not fussy food. Here's a photograph of the table prior to the food: I used different colored plates, martini glasses, bowls and tall drinking glasses. For the center piece, I bought bright pink gerber daisies and mums in white and purple.

On the menu:

1) Smoked salmon with thyme cream cheese (I simply added fresh thyme to cream cheese and mixed it all together...I was going to use dill originally, but the store didn't have it), sliced cucumbers and tomatoes on a sliced French baguette

2) Roasted brunch potatoes (I will be posting a full recipe later this week)

3) Jenn's amazing fruit salad (Jenn seriously bought pretty much every single fruit imaginable--watermelon, apples, mangoes, pineapple, strawberries, kiwis, grapes, blueberries, raspberries and bananas--we mixed everything together other than bananas and grapes)

4) Drinks courtesy of Jenn: orange/mango/peach juice mixed with one of those fuzzy Italian sodas and topped with a few raspberries and blueberries: delicious!

Roasted Brunch Potatoes

Jenn's Amazing Fruit Salad

Here is the table with all the food and drinks! I also gave Jenn and Radha a lesson on how to make poached eggs (the eggs went on top of the roasted brunch potatoes).

There was plenty of food, girl talk and fun. In fact, after drinking and eating, we all took a 2 hour nap! I'm not sure what that says about my hosting skills :)

After the nap we devoured the fruit salad topped with home-made whipping cream and also baked biscotti (I will be posting those on Robyn's blog on Thursday. For those of you who just can't wait, they were made with crystallized ginger, pistachios and orange zest).


Daring Bakers: Puff Pastry

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

When I learned about September's challenge I was both excited and frightened. You see, I love puff pastry, but have never thought about making it myself. Last weekend I decided to devote part of my Saturday to making the puff pastry and then bake it on Sunday.

If you want the exact recipe and directions, let me know and I'll send them to you: they are a bit too lengthy to post here.

Basically, you combine flour with water to make part of the dough. You then put flattened butter in the middle of the dough and close it up. Then roll it, fold it, roll it, refrigerate it, and repeat 6 times ;)

You then roll out the dough and cut out circles from it. Then you cut out a smaller circle out of the large ones and stack the "doughnut" shaped ones on top of full circles. Make some little holes in the full circle, brush everything carefully with an egg wash and bake. The dough rose in the oven quite a bit and was really flaky! (My pictures turned out ridiculously poor this time around.)

For the savory filling I made sauteed mushrooms with onion, bacon and thyme.

For the sweet filling, I used fresh figs, raspberries and home-made whipped cream.

I still have quite a bit of the dough in my freezer, so make sure to check back in at a later date for more puff pastry projects.


Justin Marx made me one happy girl

...no, no, no, not what you think :)

A while ago I left a comment for a chance to win 4 pounds of mushrooms from Marx Foods (based in Seattle), and OMG I actually won! Just Marx emailed me to let me know that I should be getting 2 pounds of chanterelles and 2 pounds of lobster mushrooms.

So far I'm thinking of sauteing mushrooms, making a mushroom soup and maybe even a mushroom risotto! If you have ideas for simple dishes (think 5 ingredients or less, please let me know in the comments).


Polenta with Mushrooms, Bacon & Onions

Have I mentioned that I recently signed up for upgraded cable? It's been amazing! This of course means that I now can watch Food TV, Bravo, TLC and a bunch of other channels non-stop! I might never get up from my couch again :)

Last week I was watching Paula Deen's show where she was making polenta appetizers topped with sauteed mushrooms. The dish looks so great that I decided to replicate it. The recipe below is of my own invention--I did not feel like looking up Paula's original recipe.


for polenta
5 cups water
1 cup milk
4 thyme sprigs
1 cup polenta
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar

for the topping
4 bacon strips, cubed
1/2 onion, chopped
16 ounces cremini mushrooms, destemmed, thinly sliced
6 thyme sprigs
salt & pepper to taste
optional: braised lamb

1. For polenta, bring salted water & milk to a boil. Add thyme sprigs and 1 cup of polenta. Whisk pretty much constantly for the first 5 minutes. Cook for at least 20 more minutes. Remove thyme sprigs (most of the leaves would have fallen off by this point), add the shredded cheese and cook for a few more minutes.
2. Pour polenta into an oiled 9x13 Pyrex dish, cool slightly, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
3. For the topping, add bacon and onions to a pan. Brown.
4. Add mushrooms and thyme sprigs. Season with salt & pepper. Cook until mushrooms are soft and caramelized. Remove thyme sprigs (again, just like in polenta, most of the leaves would have fallen off by now and you'd just be removing the sticks).
5. Optional: add braised lamb...I had some left from a meal at Lebanese Taverna.
6. Back to polenta...Once the polenta is all set in the refrigerator, cut out round shapes using a biscuit cutter. Bake those rounds in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 10 minutes on each side. Top them with mushroom/onion/bacon/lamb mixture. Serve.

Note: the pictures above are not technically of the final dish. I was serving this dish for dinner and the lighting was rather poor. So instead, I tried to saute a few of the polenta rounds during the daylight. That wasn't the smartest decision because the polenta started losing some of its shape. The taste, however, was still awesome.

Note 2: I LOVE polenta. My mom used to make polenta with feta for breakfast when I was growing up in Russian...great memories.

Another polenta recipe: shrimp with spicy corn and polenta,


Dinner at Tallula

A few weeks ago I received an invitation from Amber and Sangeetha of Pfau Communications to join some local DC area food bloggers for dinner at Tallula. I was thrilled: I've heard of this Arlington restaurant for a while and have driven past it several times. I gratefully accepted the invitation and last Thursday had the pleasure of meeting Amber, Sangeetha, the other food bloggers and seeing my friend Lisa for dinner at Tallula.

Others in attending:
Tiffany McGettigan- http://virginiafoodie.typepad.com//
Ramona Padovano-http://houndstoothgourmet.com//
Lisa Shapiro- http://diningindc.net//
Sarah Meyer Walsh- http://sarahmeyerwalsh.wordpress.com//
Johnna Rowe- http://www.johnnaknowsgoodfood.com//
Anita Hattiangadi- http://gregslistdc.com//
Katie Test and Donna- http://www.welovedc.com/

We had a private dining room all to ourselves. The room was lined with a wall full of wine bottles--it reminded me of the wineries I've visited in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the room was quite dark, and thus there will be no pictures of the food. Sorry.

After meeting everyone, we were treated to a pretty pink cocktail: Movie Star Cocktail. I could not figure out the flavor of it, but someone pointed out it had a hint of vanilla: a tasty way to start the night.

We then had a pleasure of meeting Tallula's chef Barry Koslow and wine director Juliana Santos, who together planned a wonderful four course tasting menu accompanied by wine for us.

After receiving a bread basket with butter, we were served an amuse bouche of goat. I don't think I have ever tried goat in my entire life. It reminded me of tongue, which my mom used to cook often when I was growing up. I was a fan.

The first course was Charred Spanish Octopus served with chick peas, pearl onions, sundried tomatoes & sherry vinaigrette paired with 2008 Stadt Krems Gruner Veltiner from Kremstal Australia.

The octopus was tender and smoky in flavor. Turns out, they cook their own chickpeas, instead of using canned ones, and I could really taste the difference! We were told that the wine goes well with Earthy vegetables.

The second course was Pacific Halibut with lentil & applewood smoked bacon crust, cauliflower & curried cider reduction paired with 2007 Domaine Bizkot Chardonnay from Burgundy France.

LOVED the halibut: it is such a mild flavored white fish. And of course, anything paired with bacon only becomes better! I thought the use of lentils and smoked bacon as a crust was very inventive and definitely helped to keep the fish moist. I wasn't a huge fan of cauliflower in this dish: it could have been cooked a bit more. The wine was white burgundy and had an oaky/toasty flavor. The next time you are making curry, pick up a bottle of this wine.

Note: the bottle on the left wasn't served to us during dinner--I just really liked the label.

The third course was Pan Roasted Duck Breast with hominy cake, crushed baby carrots, roasted peaches & anise duck jus paired with 2007 Vina Carles Carinera/Garnacha from Priorat Spain.

I must say that I don't like duck. I find it to be fatty and rather too strong in flavor, but I wasn't going to let it sit on my plate without trying it. Guess what? I was pleasantly surprised. The best part of this dish were the roasted peaches: their sweetness definitely was a good contrast to the gaminess of the duck.

I did not, however, like the wine. I guess I'm just not really a huge fan of red wines (unless it's a Shiraz). Juliana Santos informed us that this wine is full bodied and has notes of dark fruit and licorice. No wonder: I've never been a fan of licorice.

And then it was time for dessert!

The fourth course was Chocolate-Toffee Brownie Cake with pistachio ice cream paired with NV Fonseca 10 year Tawny Port from Douro Portugal.

This was a perfect dessert: it combined chocolate and pistachios! The dessert was rich, but not overwhelmingly so. And the ice cream was a refreshing counterpart.

I'm definitely not a port fan. I tried a few sips of it, but left the rest in the glass. It was interesting to find out that this port was a blend of several wines, the youngest one having to be at least 10 years old!

And then there were Nutella glazed doughnuts! These little doughnuts were a perfect way to finish this meal.

I had such a great time learning about Barry's cooking style, new wines, and tasting the wonderful food.

Thank you, Amber and Sangeetha for organizing such a fun evening!


Chicken and White Bean Chili

Here's a recipe I came up with for Chicken and White Bean Chili to go with my Tri-Color Cornbread. Every time I make chili, I think of my friend Jenny because she's the one who first showed me how to make chili. This version, however, is quite different. Instead of using ground beef, I used cubed chicken breasts. Instead of kidney beans, I used Northern beans. I hope you like this version of chili.

2 teaspoons oil
2 chicken breasts, cubed
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1/2 onion, diced
3 celery spears, peeled and diced
2 15.5 ounce cans of Northern beans, rinsed, drained
1 14.5 ounce can mild green chilies and diced tomatoes (or use any other type of canned tomatoes)

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add chicken and spices. Brown (no need to cook the chicken all the way through at this point).
2. Remove the chicken from the pan, add in the vegetables and saute till soft (you might need to add a bit of extra oil).
3. Add the chicken back into the pan. Add beans and tomatoes, mix and simmer for 20 minutes.
4. Make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through.
5. Serve with sour cream and cheese and scallions (not pictured).


Tri-Colored Cornbread and Lodge Logic Skillet

A while ago I received an email from Jenna, who works for KaTom Restaurant Supply saying she's really enjoyed reading my blog (thank you!) and wanted to see if I'd like to review one of their products.

Guess what I said? Of course! I chose Lodge Logic Skillet. It arrived a few weeks ago, and I was looking forward to testing it. Let me just say that it's incredibly heavy because it is made from cast iron. The best part of this product, for me, was that it came already seasoned. I did not have to oil it and then let it sit in the oven and repeat this step several times.

With the weather resembling fall, I decided to make cornbread: a perfect way to test my newly acquired piece of equipment. Of course (if you know me well enough) you would not expect me to bake the cornbread from scratch. That's what little packages of Jiffy are for!

Starting with a Jiffy mix, I added a few extra ingredients to make this Tri-Colored Cornbread.

1 Jiffy package
1 egg
1 mini hot red pepper, finely diced (see the photo of the pepper below. I'm not sure of its name, but it was super spicy! Thanks, Kenny!)
1/2 red pepper, diced
3 green scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 can corn
1/3 cup + 1/8 cup buttermilk (the directions called for milk, but I thought buttermilk would be more fun; also, I added another 1/8 cup of buttermilk because of the extra ingredients)


1. Preheat the oven according to directions on Jiffy package.

2. Mix all the ingredients together and let them stand for a few minutes before pouring the mixture into an oiled skillet.

3. Bake for about 22 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown and the toothpick comes out dry.

My original plan was to serve the cornbread with chili, but I did not have time to make it that night. Instead, I had it with cucumber/tomato/corn/broccoli sprout salad: delicious!

The cornbread came out very pretty and flavourful. I think adding cheese wouldn't have hurt either. As far as the Lodge Logic Skillet, as I said before, it is super heavy and becomes incredibly hot in the oven...but that's to be expected. I was, however, disappointed that the cornbread was stuck to the bottom.

Come back next week to check out a recipe for Chicken and White Bean Chili I made later on the week to go with the leftover cornbread.

And if you have a chance, please vote for my Orzo recipe in TheKitchn recipe contest (the voting ends today). Special thank you to all of you who have already done so!


Please vote for me!!!

Hi, dear readers.

Mind helping a girl out? :)

I've entered a recipe contest on TheKitchn.com and would love your votes. The more people vote, the better chances of me winning (I need at least 100 votes I think!).

Here is the recipe and the link. Just click on it, and if you like the recipe, give it a thumbs up.
Unfortunately, you will have to register, but that should not be too much of a big deal, right? Their website is really great and will never send you SPAM.

I would really appreciate your help!

You can vote for the next 48 hours; the final results will be announced in October.


Arugula, Pomegranate and Fig salad with Balsamic Glaze

This is not really a recipe per say. Here's what happened: Over the weekend I was not feeling well, and was surprisingly craving salads. Why surprisingly? Because typically I crave chocolate chip cookies, beef, chocolate, ice cream, and watermelon.

I made myself put on some clothes, wash my face, brush my teeth and go to the store. I bought arugula, tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocados. But you don't see those in the salad on the left, do you?

After making arugula, tomato, avocado and cucumber salad a few days in a row, I decided to do something different with the remaining arugula: Arugula, Pomegranate and Fig salad with Balsamic Glaze.

All there is to this salad is a bowl of arugula, sliced figs, pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds and balsamic glaze.

This time, instead of using my regular balsamic vinegar and reducing it to make the glaze, I added some of the Dark Cherry Balsamico I styled and photograph for Robyn. It added a richer and sweeter taste to the glaze.

You can toss all the ingredients together, or make a composed salad, which is what I did. If you can't find pomegranates in your area, try using grapes.

What are your favorite salads that use fruit?


Daring Cooks: Indian Dosas with Chickpea Filling & Coconut Sauce

It is time to reveal the Daring Cook's Challenge for this month: Indian Dosas with Chickpea Filling and Coconut Sauce.

I love Indian food. I love eating it, making it, the smell of it and the comfort of it. I was really exited about this challenge, even though my friend Radha, who is Indian and knows her stuff, said the recipe was super Americanized. Speaking of the recipe, if you want all the details and amounts, email me and I'll send it to you.

The coconut sauce (on the left) consisted of tomatoes, coconut milk, cumin, curry, some broth and a bit of flour. It was really easy to put together and tasted pretty good. The chickpea filling (on the right) consisted of chickpeas, onions, green peppers, carrots, turmeric, cumin and a few other ingredients. I decided to leave out oregano and use tomato puree instead of tomato paste. The filing came together smoothly, but what nearly killed me were the banana peppers. OMG did you know they are incredibly hot? I somehow managed to touch my lips after cutting the peppers and my mouth was on FIRE! So were my hands: I was seriously in pain.

I made the dosas from wholewheat flour, water, baking powder, soy milk and curry. The dosas get cooked in oil, filled with the chickpea filling and topped with coconut sauce.

There was so much food! I was eating it for 4 days and got slightly tired of it, but this would be a good recipe for a party. You can also serve either the sauce or the filling on top of rice.

Although the recipe called for sliced cucumbers and shredded coconut as a topping, I thought it was unnecessary. Overall, I was pleased with how everything turned out.

Do you like my stacked plate look? :)


Puff Pasty & Fruit Tarts

Here is a super quick and easy dessert I came up with a few days ago using only puff pastry and fruit: I used raspberries and figs.

All you need is defrosted puff pastry and cut up fruit or berries: feel free to use peaches, nectarines, strawberries or blueberries.

Preheat the oven to 375.
Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
Cut puff pastry into the shapes you want the tarts to be.
Using a knife score a border inside each tart and then make little tiny holes with a fork on the inside of the border (am I making any sense?).
Add your fruit to the inside of the border and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove the tarts from the oven and let them cool a bit. Add some confectionery sugar and eat (I just held them as sandwiches and took little bites: no need to use a knife or a fork).

Here's a little trick I learned from another blogger (sadly, I cannot remember who it was). If you don't have a special sugar shaker (I used to have Anna's, but had to return it to her), add confectionery sugar to a tea ball and shake it up!

The tarts did not turn out as amazing as I was hoping for. Perhaps I should have pre-baked them a bit before adding fruit? Or maybe added some creamy filling? What do you think?


Double-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Sausage

A few months ago I had dinner at a restaurant in Adams Morgan neighborhood. It was a perfect night, fun company, and great food. I had a dish of sweet plantains mixed with cheese and beef. That mixture was then stuffed back into the plantain "shell" and baked again.

Last week I decided to recreate that dish using sweet potatoes, sausage, mozzarella cheese and some garbanzo beans for added protein.


4 sweet potatoes
1 pound sausage [I used a bratwurst sausage with cheese]
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
1 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon minced parsley


1. Bake sweet potatoes (without puncturing the skin) at 475 for about 30-40 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, remove the sausage from the casing and brown in a pan. Add garbanzo beans. Depending on the flavor of the sausage, you might need to add extra spices. Mine was flavorful enough on its own.
3. Once the potatoes are baked, let them cool a bit. Make a slit in the middle of the potatoes (lengthwise) and carefully remove the flesh of the potatoes. Add that flesh to the sausage/garbanzo bean mixture and slightly mash together.
4. Incorporate 1 cup of cheese into the sausage/garbanzo beans/potato mixture.
5. Evenly split the mixture into 4 potato skins and top with the remaining 1/4 cup of cheese.
6. Bake for 5 minutes to let the cheese melt.
7. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy.

This is the first time I've made a double-baked potato of any kind. This dish is incredibly versatile: you can use chicken instead of sausage, regular potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, and red peppers instead of garbanzo beans. Let your imagination go wild!

In other news, check out my food styling photo in Robyn Webb's latest post :)


Melon & Mango Popsicles

You know how I made a Summer Melon and Mango soup? Well, I ate one bowl of it and decided to make mini Popsicle from the rest of the soup! All you have to do is

1) Puree together 1/2 melon and 1 mango (obviously both have to be peeled, seeds removed, cubed)
2) Pour the mixture into ice trays
3) Insert toothpicks or Popsicle sticks
4) Keep in the freezer
5) Enjoy

melon and mango Popsiclesmelon and mango Popsicles

I got this idea from my friend Cindy who made watermelon Popsicles for her kids from a watermelon that was slightly pass its ripeness. Her little son is in love with watermelon! Obviously you can make these Popsicles using any combination of fruit and berries.

I think it would be fun to do multi-colored ones by making mango puree, strawberry puree and kiwi puree and then layering those flavors on top of one another (but allowing each layer to freeze before adding the next one).

melon and mango Popsiclesmelon and mango Popsicles


Melon & Mango Cold Soup

Who said soup has to be savory? Why not make a cold summer fruit soup? You can serve it as a first course, dessert or a snack.

I've been neglecting the fact that half of my blog's name is mango. I'm sorry :) Here's a recipe that has mangoes as one of the main ingredients.

Melon & Mango Cold Soup


1/2 melon, peeled, cubed
1 mango, peeled, cubed
4 strawberries (optional)

1. Puree together melon and mango
2. Optional: separately puree strawberries
3. Pour the melon/mango mixture into a bowl
4. Optional: add some strawberry puree into the soup
5. Enjoy
(Serves 2-4)

Stay tuned to see what else I've made with this mixture!


Spam & Egg Breakfast Sandwich

I'm the advertisers' dream: I see something in a commercial and I want to try it. For the last few weeks I've been wanting to try McD's new Angus burgers: alas, the burger was very disappointing. The fries, luckily, were amazing. Same happened with Au Bon Pain's watermelon lemonade: so not worth the $4!

Then last night when I was watching Top Chef, they briefly mentioned Spam. When I woke up today I went across the street to buy Diet Pepsi and eggs and then spotted a container of Spam. We used to eat Spam in Moscow and use the leftover can as a planter ;) Oh the memories. I picked up a container of Spam and decided to make Spam & Egg Breakfast sandwich.

All you need to do is brown a few slices of Spam, saute some white onions and make one egg over easy. Layer all ingredients on a piece of bread, add a bit of cayenne and fresh basil. You are ready to eat!


Dinner at Ruth's Chris in DC

Last week many of the DC area restaurants offered a special menu for Restaurant Week. Last Friday, for Laura's early birthday dinner, I joined her and her other 3 friends for dinner at Ruth's Chris. The place was nicely decorated, but people wore everything from shorts and tshirts to cocktail wear. We fit somewhere in the middle. Drinks in hand (I ordered a black cherry martini forgetting that I hate fake black cherry flavor), we were seated and greeted by our waiter: he proceeded to address us as mademoiselles the entire night.

For the first course I ordered tomato soup with lobster. The portion size was quite substantial, there was definitely plenty of crab in the soup and enough flavor. The only change I would have made was to add a bit of creme.

My other dining companions weren't as lucky. Theresa's salad came with dressing on the salad instead on the side as she had asked. The waiter pretended not to hear her and left. She had to get his attention several times before her order was corrected. Danielle received a completely different salad from what she had ordered. I'm not sure if we were being treated off-handed because we are all women, or because everyone (other than me) at the table was 25 years old (not that we behaved inappropriately at all).

For the entree we all ordered 6 oz steak (I can't remember what cut) with a few shrimp, and I had mashed potatoes. The plates were sizzling hot and the smell of butter surrounded us instantaneously. The meat was perfectly cooked (medium rare) and I even managed to leave half of it to take home.

I'm afraid that mashed potatoes were not (gasp!!!) made from scratch. That was quite disappointing, but they were still pretty good. Again, I took half of them home. I must thank Danielle for this because she decided to take half of her food home: otherwise, I would have finished everything on my plate.

And then there was dessert! We had a sweet custard with fresh fruit and chocolate mousse in a chocolate cup. Dreamy!

Sorry for the quality of photographs: the lighting was rather harsh and I'm not quite ready to start bringing my own lamps to restaurants just yet ;)

All in all it was a great dinner. Our waiter, however, thought we did not cover the bill and ran after us as we were leaving the restaurant. Not surprisingly, he was mistaken.